New spy technology? Flying microchips the size of a sand grain will be used for human surveillance

Winged microchip is smallest-ever human-made flying structure
The size of a grain of sand, dispersed microfliers could monitor air pollution, airborne disease and environmental contamination and spy on us. PBS

It’s neither a bird nor a plane, but a winged microchip as small as a grain of sand that can be carried by the wind as it monitors such things as pollution levels or the spread of airborne diseases.

The tiny microfliers, whose development by engineers at Northwestern University was detailed in an article published by Nature this week, are being billed as the smallest-ever human-made flying structures.

Mini spy fliers

The devices don’t have a motor; engineers were instead inspired by the maple tree’s free-falling propeller seeds — technically known as samara fruit.

The engineers optimized the aerodynamics of the microfliers so that “as these structures fall through the air, the interaction between the air and those wings cause a rotational motion that creates a very stable, slow-falling velocity,” said John A. Rogers, who led the development of the devices.

That allows these structures to interact for extended periods with ambient wind that really enhances the dispersal process,” said the Northwestern professor.

The wind would scatter the tiny microchips, which could sense their surrounding environments and collect information. The scientists say they could potentially be used to monitor for contamination, surveil populations or even track diseases.

Their creators foresee microfliers becoming part of “large, distributed collections of miniaturized, wireless electronic devices.” In other words, they could look like a swarm.

The concept has also found its way to the dystopian science fiction series Black Mirror.

What are these microflyers capable of?

The microfliers comprise two parts: millimeter-sized electronic functional components and their wings. As the microflier falls through the air, its wings interact with the air to create a slow, stable rotational motion. The weight of the electronics is distributed low in the center of the microflier to prevent it from losing control and chaotically tumbling to the ground.

In demonstrated examples, Rogers’ team included sensors, a power source that can harvest ambient energy, memory storage and an antenna that can wirelessly transfer data to a smart phone, tablet or computer.

In the lab, Rogers’ group outfitted one device with all of these elements to detect particulates in the air. In another example, they incorporated pH sensors that could be used to monitor water quality and photodetectors to measure sun exposure at different wavelengths.

Rogers imagines that large numbers of devices could be dropped from a plane or building and broadly dispersed to monitor environmental remediation efforts after a chemical spill or to track levels of air pollution at various altitudes.

Most monitoring technologies involve bulk instrumentation designed to collect data locally at a small number of locations across a spatial area of interest,” Rogers said. “We envision a large multiplicity of miniaturized sensors that can be distributed at a high spatial density over large areas, to form a wireless network.

And I say, there’s just a small step going from environmental surveillance to human surveillance… What do you think?

Winged microchip is smallest-ever human-made flying structure
This winged microchip is the smallest-ever human-made flying structure. PBS

They think they can beat nature

But unlike with maple seeds, the engineers needed to slow down the descent of their microfliers to give the devices more time to collect data. Team member Yonggang Huang developed a computer model that calculated the best design that would enable the microfliers to fall slowly and disperse widely.

This is impossible with trial-and-error experiments,” Huang said in a Northwestern news release.

The team also drew inspiration from children’s pop-up books for the construction of such tiny devices.

The engineers first created a base and then bonded it to “a slightly stretched rubber substrate,” according to the news release. When relaxed, that substrate pops up into a precise three-dimensional shape.

We think that we beat nature,” Rogers said. “At least in the narrow sense that we have been able to build structures that fall with more stable trajectories and at slower terminal velocities than equivalent seeds that you would see from plants or trees.” [NPR, nature, Northwestern]

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  1. “It’s not flying. Its falling, with style.”
    This idea is as good as dumping raw sewage into rivers from which people and animals draw their drinking water. It’s criminally insane, from a survival point of view. Definitely NOT “sustainable” in any currently-defined sense of the word.

    Think of the pollution introduced by these engineers’ proposed massive dumps of non-biodegradable devices. Have they done environmental impact studies?

    What are the health effects on the animals which are likely to ingest these devices? Will the devices persist in the animals and concentrate higher up the food chain? What effect will these devices, when excreted with feces, have upon riparian ecosystems and human wastewater processing systems?

    Then think of the legal implications for organizations which release these pollutants into the wild. Who will pay the medical bills for people and animals whose health is damaged by inhalation of these devices? What about the farm equipment which sustains damage from these devices clogging up or tearing apart the working apparatus? What about airplanes, perhaps crop dusters, which crash because of the presence of these devices in the air?

    I could go on with many more reasons NOT to implement this very bad idea. I have to shake my head at the pigheaded stupidity of engineers who would even contemplate such widespread environmental destruction for the sake of a limited-duration of questionable-quality data.

  2. Harvard researchers reveal how résumé bots are killing job opportunities for people who need them most
    Job Seekers hoping to land an interview are living under the tyranny of automatic résumé filters that have already deemed them unqualified.
    oday, most companies outsource the grunt work of filling job vacancies to AI. Some sort of program typically identifies top candidates, manages the application process, schedules interviews, and even performs background checks. These systems ultimately do fill those vacancies—but in the process it employs overly simplistic criteria that prune “bad” applicants, rejecting millions of qualified workers, according to Harvard Business School study released Saturday.
    I warned that AI is making it up COVID19 all these crap?
    Yes President of Corasia said no more vaccines?

  3. Yet more garbage reporting. These things fall, they do not fly. They cannot be controlled and as such cannot be used in the way this article pretends they can. More fear mongering BS I’m afraid.

  4. Yeah, that’s what we need. More surveillance to spy upon taxpayers. I hope they use this technology for good. Not evil purposes. Not holding my breath. Trust the science. Lol.

    • Nanoparticles can be used now to enter through human skin. So, we can all be poisoned/vaxxed without consent. Also, the evil ones want to make lettuce deliver vax.
      That’s probably why the satanic elitists are buying up farmlands. More poison vegetables and GMO abominations for everyone?
      Some people say the depopulation agenda is conspiracy, but it looks like they are wrong.


        Well, this is what Alex Jones and his guest, Mr. Dyer have to say about the coming satanic age of misery for all. It talks about how our greatest institutions are infiltrated by satanists. I harp on this alot myself. Other people around are waking up to this serious problem.
        It’s obvious. Why do you think so many people act like narcissists and psychopaths now? When they took God out of schools it somehow diminished people’s ability to be governed by their conscience.
        “Do what thou wilt type behavior.”
        I remember NOT doing bad things other kids were doing. I felt like God was watching, and would be angry. So, I didn’t act like a heathen by virtue of my conscience.
        Now kids grow up, and think they can do whatever they please. That’s why you see so much lack of empathy these days, and posion ideologies being accepted. One-Worldism, satanism, and marxism are poison.

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